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Hand that rocks


Re Roger Clegg’s post, Juan Williams is not alone in hitching his wagon to Bill Cosby. The gentle Clarence Page here draws attention to a study by child psychiatrist Dr. Alvin Puissant. It seems black children are twice as likely to be expelled from preschool as white children.

“Now, what’s going on there?” Dr. Poussaint, a black man, asked the mostly black crowd at “Paths to Success: A Forum on Young African-American Men.”

“Is racial profiling starting at age 3 or 4?” he asked. “Or is there something going on before preschool that relates to the family and the community that already is making some of these young black males unable to adapt, unable to fit, in a preschool level?”

If you thought he was about to point fingers in knee-jerk fashion at white racism, you’d be wrong. Instead, Dr. Poussaint said he believes we all should be asking where that early anger is coming from. He zeroed in on abnormally high levels of child abuse and neglect, particularly in the homes of low-income black families. His principal target was what the forum’s featured speaker,  Bill Cosby, has called in his own famously blunt terms, “parents who are not parenting.”

Bravo. Page quotes Poussaint further:

“‘There’s an overuse of beating kids – corporal punishment, so that you have 80 percent of black parents believing you should beat them – beat the devil out of them. And research shows the more you beat them, the angrier they get. It is not good discipline.’

Abuse also does not have to be physical, he said. Heads in his audience nodded in agreement as he described black parents cursing, shaking or slapping their prekindergarten kids or demeaning them with statements like, ‘You’re no good, just like your father.’”

Now we are getting somewhere. As Cosby points out, a substantial subset of black Americans are failing to do the right thing by their kids. With more than 70 percent of black children born to single women,  the likelihood that these kids will be abused and/or neglected is extremely high compared with children born to married parents. 

Family structure is pretty much the ballgame (there are data suggesting that a white kid born to a single mother is more likely to get in trouble with the law than a black child  born to married parents), but there may also be patterns of humiliation and degradation practiced by black mothers that are psychologically damaging to black kids. Cosby himself has noted the ubiquity of the N-word within black neighborhoods. Where do the young pick that up?   This is where the focus needs to be. Poussaint, Cosby, Williams, McWhorter, Page, Sowell – these are the lantern bearers.


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